Three recent proposals to change SNAP, the federal nutrition program — one of which was formally adopted in December — will worsen food insecurity in Texas and across the nation for the poorest among us.
The Trump administration’s proposed changes would cut almost 4 million people from the program, while also reducing benefits for another 3.1 million households, according to the Urban Institute.
In a nutshell, these three changes will:
- Eliminate state flexibility to waive the SNAP work requirement for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs) in areas of high unemployment;
- Rescind categorical eligibility that grants states the flexibility to eliminate SNAP asset tests and use a higher income test to serve more working households that have significant expenses for shelter and childcare; and
- Cap the Standard Utility Allowance nationally, lowering the calculation in many states and removing state flexibility to respond to their unique circumstances.
You may notice a trend there. All three changes tighten SNAP regulations at the federal level and eliminate states’ power to adjust their program according to local economic conditions.
Texas uses categorical eligibility to establish an allowable resource limit of $5,000 and a vehicle worth up to $15,000. As most Texans are required to work in order to maintain their SNAP benefits, imposing the federal limit will exclude the vast majority of cars. If this change is enacted, Texas families will be forced off of SNAP either because their cars are above the limit or because they lose their jobs due to unreliable transportation.
The rule will also be costly for Texas. As states bear 50 percent of all administrative cost increases, this rule would cost the state an estimated $100 million in state funds in the next 5 years by the USDA’s own estimates.
The Trump Administration asserts that they are “closing loopholes” and encouraging people to “know the dignity of work.” But the reality is that these policies have been in place for decades, and similar changes to SNAP were rejected on a bipartisan basis by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill.
The reality is that most SNAP recipients who can work, do – they just don’t earn enough to make ends meet. The average income of a single ABAWD participating in SNAP is just 18 percent of the poverty line, or about $2,171 annually.
Finally, this rule will also be disastrous for food banks.
“Those people and their needs don’t evaporate simply because the federal government backs down on some of its commitments,” says Ellen Vollinger, SNAP director at the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC). “It shifts those costs to others downstream — to states, to localities, to charities who won’t be able to fill that gap, and of course in many circumstances, it shifts that burden right back on to the hungry household.”